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Avoiding College Athletic Peonage

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Although I assume not enough players will go to make a significant dent in the system, like Matt I would hope that some aspiring basketball players will choose to go to Europe and actually get compensated for their services rather than be grossly exploited by the NCAA. The system in which everyone is allowed to profit as much as they can from college athletics except the players whose skills actually create the market is bad enough. But the collaboration of the NBA and NFL makes it even worse; at least players who are ready should have options to play at another professional level, including the league itself. (I’m still amazed by sportswriters who not only defend the NBA’s new restrictions on high school players being drafted but claim it’s actually in the interest of the athletes.) The exploitation of baseball players in college is far less severe, not only because the teams are not as profitable but because players have a viable professional option.

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  • crack

    The thing is, these players shouldn’t bother waiting until they are out of high school. Go to Europe rather than some American prep basketball academy. Then they can start playing for pay sooner.

  • crack

    The thing is, these players shouldn’t bother waiting until they are out of high school. Go to Europe rather than some American prep basketball academy. Then they can start playing for pay sooner.

  • CJR

    If the NBA wants to act in the interest of the athletes, it will drop this rule. The average 18-19 year old hoops phenom is probably better off at the end of an NBA bench (and having the support of family, friends, coaches, support staff, etc) than he is moving to Europe and trying to live and play there.

  • CJR

    If the NBA wants to act in the interest of the athletes, it will drop this rule. The average 18-19 year old hoops phenom is probably better off at the end of an NBA bench (and having the support of family, friends, coaches, support staff, etc) than he is moving to Europe and trying to live and play there.

  • Or, if the NBA were serious about instilling a commitment to academics – excuse me, “academics” – they could insist on only drafting seniors.
    Or the NCAA could admit that college basketball and football are essentially for-profit enterprises and pay their employees accordingly.
    Or, I guess, the Martians could land and begin a Golden Age of human progress unseen before in history, which seems way more likely than the other things.

  • Or, if the NBA were serious about instilling a commitment to academics – excuse me, “academics” – they could insist on only drafting seniors.
    Or the NCAA could admit that college basketball and football are essentially for-profit enterprises and pay their employees accordingly.
    Or, I guess, the Martians could land and begin a Golden Age of human progress unseen before in history, which seems way more likely than the other things.

  • Rob

    The worst part of this is that this stupid rule is forcing out kids who actually want to go to college to get a degree from having scholarships.

  • Rob

    The worst part of this is that this stupid rule is forcing out kids who actually want to go to college to get a degree from having scholarships.

  • McKingford

    Although I agree with the general sentiment that players ought not be willing dupes in the peonage confederacy between the NCAA and NBA, I would add a caveat.
    I’m all for players going to Europe rather than waste away a token year in college. But I think we may be overstating how easy it is to simply up and go to Europe and ball in luxury. These are professional leagues – many teams being like a AAAA NBA. European ball has a different mindset and skillset, and I’m not so sure it would be easy for American players – especially raw 18 or 19 year olds to simply fit it. I’m also dubious that European teams are looking to farm themselves out as a training ground for 18 or 19 year olds – especially knowing that it may be a short term investment.
    So while I support the idea of American players *trying* their luck overseas, I doubt that the demand is really there to accommodate anything more than the next Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.

  • McKingford

    Although I agree with the general sentiment that players ought not be willing dupes in the peonage confederacy between the NCAA and NBA, I would add a caveat.
    I’m all for players going to Europe rather than waste away a token year in college. But I think we may be overstating how easy it is to simply up and go to Europe and ball in luxury. These are professional leagues – many teams being like a AAAA NBA. European ball has a different mindset and skillset, and I’m not so sure it would be easy for American players – especially raw 18 or 19 year olds to simply fit it. I’m also dubious that European teams are looking to farm themselves out as a training ground for 18 or 19 year olds – especially knowing that it may be a short term investment.
    So while I support the idea of American players *trying* their luck overseas, I doubt that the demand is really there to accommodate anything more than the next Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.

  • zak822

    I’m not a giant fan of the current one and done approach to college hoops.
    But I have to say, as someone who just wrote out a check for my wifes student loan, that the athletes are getting something of value out of this.
    What’s the full cost of an education at Duke, North Carolina, or the University of Pittsburgh? That’s what they get, and it ain’t cheap.
    They also get a chance to hone their hoop skills. That’s a good thing for most players; the league has a long list of one year wonders who ain’t playing for anyone now and have no education to fall back on.
    In return, schools get athletic programs that generate a boatload of money. Everyone wins.
    But let’s not keep saying the student-athletes aren’t getting anything out of the deal.

  • zak822

    I’m not a giant fan of the current one and done approach to college hoops.
    But I have to say, as someone who just wrote out a check for my wifes student loan, that the athletes are getting something of value out of this.
    What’s the full cost of an education at Duke, North Carolina, or the University of Pittsburgh? That’s what they get, and it ain’t cheap.
    They also get a chance to hone their hoop skills. That’s a good thing for most players; the league has a long list of one year wonders who ain’t playing for anyone now and have no education to fall back on.
    In return, schools get athletic programs that generate a boatload of money. Everyone wins.
    But let’s not keep saying the student-athletes aren’t getting anything out of the deal.

  • zak822: no one said they’re not getting *anything* out of the deal. We’re saying they’re getting ripped off, i.e., not getting their fair share, i.e., exploited, i.e. shafted, i.e., taken advantage of, etc. And all that in the most hypocritical and patronizing of ways, so that they can “avoid” being “exploited” by “unscrupulous” agents!
    Imagine this scenario: college theater is wildly popular, generating billions of dollars annually. The National Association of College Theater Directors gets in cahoots with Hollywood to restrict access to the latter until one year in college, in which the actors get only a scholarship and everyone else gets the money the kids’ acting generates. So that, of course, the poor little dears won’t be exploited by unscrupulous agents! Still want to say the actors are still “getting something of value out of this” and that “everyone wins”?

  • zak822: no one said they’re not getting *anything* out of the deal. We’re saying they’re getting ripped off, i.e., not getting their fair share, i.e., exploited, i.e. shafted, i.e., taken advantage of, etc. And all that in the most hypocritical and patronizing of ways, so that they can “avoid” being “exploited” by “unscrupulous” agents!
    Imagine this scenario: college theater is wildly popular, generating billions of dollars annually. The National Association of College Theater Directors gets in cahoots with Hollywood to restrict access to the latter until one year in college, in which the actors get only a scholarship and everyone else gets the money the kids’ acting generates. So that, of course, the poor little dears won’t be exploited by unscrupulous agents! Still want to say the actors are still “getting something of value out of this” and that “everyone wins”?

  • elm

    There is one incentive to play in the NCAA (for peanuts) and going to Europe (for more lucrative rewards): greater U.S. media exposure. What would Oden’s endorsement deals have looked like if he went to Italy for a year instead of Ohio State? On the other hand, what would his contracts look like if he had jumped straight to the NBA?
    I’m opposed to the forced-college route, but given the current system, it is not immediately obvious for all of the players who would have gone pro under the old system to play in Europe instead of college.
    Also, as per zak’s comments, if they only attend (less than) one year of school and only attend classes to the minimal amount the need to in order to stay academically eligible, then, no, they’re not getting anything of value in their scholarship. Oh, free room and board. I guess they’re getting that.

  • elm

    There is one incentive to play in the NCAA (for peanuts) and going to Europe (for more lucrative rewards): greater U.S. media exposure. What would Oden’s endorsement deals have looked like if he went to Italy for a year instead of Ohio State? On the other hand, what would his contracts look like if he had jumped straight to the NBA?
    I’m opposed to the forced-college route, but given the current system, it is not immediately obvious for all of the players who would have gone pro under the old system to play in Europe instead of college.
    Also, as per zak’s comments, if they only attend (less than) one year of school and only attend classes to the minimal amount the need to in order to stay academically eligible, then, no, they’re not getting anything of value in their scholarship. Oh, free room and board. I guess they’re getting that.

  • zak822

    I like the “not getting their fair share” argument.
    Players are getting a full ride to an education, which apparently doesn’t count as a fair share of anything. I call it about
    $40k a year, which most people consider a decent salary.
    Are the schools making a lot of money selling the kids ability to entertain? Sure.
    When did that become such a bad thing?

  • zak822

    I like the “not getting their fair share” argument.
    Players are getting a full ride to an education, which apparently doesn’t count as a fair share of anything. I call it about
    $40k a year, which most people consider a decent salary.
    Are the schools making a lot of money selling the kids ability to entertain? Sure.
    When did that become such a bad thing?

  • aimai

    zak,
    I feel the same way about surgeons salaries! When I find out that some doctor makes 250,000 dollars a year for something I would happilly do for 40,000 I just sit myself down and shake my head and say “wow! selfish pricks! why can’t they be satisfied with my lousy salary! Where do they get off asking themselves for all that stuff on top of the natural and right level of remuneration for their skills which is set…uh, how is it set, again?
    Of course if highschool kids and early college kids could get paid full freight for their playing skills and colleges had to then allow them to use a set aside of their salaries to pay for the education later that would really show us the value that colleges place on having top atheletes playing for them, and the value that those atheletes place on the actual education. Why do those things have to happen at the same time, except to feed the fantasy of the student/athlete at the same time as we fill college coffers and egos with the throw away lives of young sports stars with no academic futures?
    BTW there’s an excellent John Wayne tearjerker about this–he plays a football coach at a catholic school who brings in ringers and professionals to win games and bring money to the school from the alumni. Three handkerchiefs all the way. But at least the “fathers” all grasp that this is doing no one any good.
    aimai

  • aimai

    zak,
    I feel the same way about surgeons salaries! When I find out that some doctor makes 250,000 dollars a year for something I would happilly do for 40,000 I just sit myself down and shake my head and say “wow! selfish pricks! why can’t they be satisfied with my lousy salary! Where do they get off asking themselves for all that stuff on top of the natural and right level of remuneration for their skills which is set…uh, how is it set, again?
    Of course if highschool kids and early college kids could get paid full freight for their playing skills and colleges had to then allow them to use a set aside of their salaries to pay for the education later that would really show us the value that colleges place on having top atheletes playing for them, and the value that those atheletes place on the actual education. Why do those things have to happen at the same time, except to feed the fantasy of the student/athlete at the same time as we fill college coffers and egos with the throw away lives of young sports stars with no academic futures?
    BTW there’s an excellent John Wayne tearjerker about this–he plays a football coach at a catholic school who brings in ringers and professionals to win games and bring money to the school from the alumni. Three handkerchiefs all the way. But at least the “fathers” all grasp that this is doing no one any good.
    aimai

  • McKingford

    I think the further mistake zak makes is assuming the education a top-flight NCAA player gets is worth anything (as opposed to the education a regular joe who shells out $40K/year gets to pick). Because of the constraints of travel and practice, and the concern that a player may become academically ineligible if they pursue too rigorous a course schedule, many schools actually dictate to these student athletes what courses they can and cannot take.
    Robert Smith (former RB for the Vikings) got into a tiff while starring at tOSU because they were insisting he take a bunch of basket weaving courses, while he wanted to take pre-dentistry (ie. courses that had a value to *him*); he lost out. I’m sure this scenario plays out all through the NCAA all the time, but to less fanfare, and with less cerebral players than Robert Smith.

  • McKingford

    I think the further mistake zak makes is assuming the education a top-flight NCAA player gets is worth anything (as opposed to the education a regular joe who shells out $40K/year gets to pick). Because of the constraints of travel and practice, and the concern that a player may become academically ineligible if they pursue too rigorous a course schedule, many schools actually dictate to these student athletes what courses they can and cannot take.
    Robert Smith (former RB for the Vikings) got into a tiff while starring at tOSU because they were insisting he take a bunch of basket weaving courses, while he wanted to take pre-dentistry (ie. courses that had a value to *him*); he lost out. I’m sure this scenario plays out all through the NCAA all the time, but to less fanfare, and with less cerebral players than Robert Smith.

  • Mike

    What McKingford said. Also, though this seems to be one of those things we’re not supposed to talk about, the value of a college education to those not academically prepared to take advantage of it, is zero. If a scholarship were for, say, up to three years of remedial secondary education plus four to five years of college education in return for four years of college athletic play, we could start to talk about fair value.

  • Mike

    What McKingford said. Also, though this seems to be one of those things we’re not supposed to talk about, the value of a college education to those not academically prepared to take advantage of it, is zero. If a scholarship were for, say, up to three years of remedial secondary education plus four to five years of college education in return for four years of college athletic play, we could start to talk about fair value.

  • zak822, you’ve got to be kidding me. As aimai shows, “fair share” in the good old US of A is set by the market, not by your estimation. Where, oh where, is Nieporent when we could use him? David, yoo hoo, where are you? This should be red meat to you!

  • zak822, you’ve got to be kidding me. As aimai shows, “fair share” in the good old US of A is set by the market, not by your estimation. Where, oh where, is Nieporent when we could use him? David, yoo hoo, where are you? This should be red meat to you!

  • hickes01

    Not to be a killjoy, but doesn’t the NBA, as a private business, have the right to set minimum employment standards? The NBA is not telling kids to go to college, it’s saying, “We don’t hire 18-year olds because they are unreliable”. Can’t the NBA make a business case for this rule? I suspect I may be pummeled by a pithy legal argument, but what the hell, it’s an opportunity to learn.

  • hickes01

    Not to be a killjoy, but doesn’t the NBA, as a private business, have the right to set minimum employment standards? The NBA is not telling kids to go to college, it’s saying, “We don’t hire 18-year olds because they are unreliable”. Can’t the NBA make a business case for this rule? I suspect I may be pummeled by a pithy legal argument, but what the hell, it’s an opportunity to learn.

  • elm

    hickes01,
    No one here as far as I can tell, has argued that the US government should step in and force the NBA to allow 18 year olds to play. We’re saying it’s a bad rule. Not an illegal rule. (Or, I’m saying that. If others are saying it’s illegal, I’ll stand corrected on that point.)

  • elm

    hickes01,
    No one here as far as I can tell, has argued that the US government should step in and force the NBA to allow 18 year olds to play. We’re saying it’s a bad rule. Not an illegal rule. (Or, I’m saying that. If others are saying it’s illegal, I’ll stand corrected on that point.)

  • hickes01

    I wasn’t sure if the was a legal clause, like MLB’s “Reserve Clause”, that granted the NBA a monopoly.

  • hickes01

    I wasn’t sure if the was a legal clause, like MLB’s “Reserve Clause”, that granted the NBA a monopoly.

  • hickes01

    “If the NBA wants to act in the interest of the athletes, it will drop this rule. The average 18-19 year old hoops phenom is probably better off at the end of an NBA bench (and having the support of family, friends, coaches, support staff, etc) than he is moving to Europe and trying to live and play there.”
    It’s not in the NBA’s best interest to hire 18-year olds. It’s not cost-effective to pay Endi Ebi millions of dollars for nothing in retun. No. this is not a moral or ethical argument. Heck, if Wallmart can sue a crippled woman for her accident payout…

  • hickes01

    “If the NBA wants to act in the interest of the athletes, it will drop this rule. The average 18-19 year old hoops phenom is probably better off at the end of an NBA bench (and having the support of family, friends, coaches, support staff, etc) than he is moving to Europe and trying to live and play there.”
    It’s not in the NBA’s best interest to hire 18-year olds. It’s not cost-effective to pay Endi Ebi millions of dollars for nothing in retun. No. this is not a moral or ethical argument. Heck, if Wallmart can sue a crippled woman for her accident payout…

  • One way to make the current system less inequitable is to require the NCAA to carry career insurance on their athletes, so that if they’re injured before even reaching the pros they get a realistic return on the time spent on the college team.

  • One way to make the current system less inequitable is to require the NCAA to carry career insurance on their athletes, so that if they’re injured before even reaching the pros they get a realistic return on the time spent on the college team.

  • The mention of the reserve clause reminds me that what they need isn’t a Jackie Robinson, it’s a Curt Flood.

  • The mention of the reserve clause reminds me that what they need isn’t a Jackie Robinson, it’s a Curt Flood.

  • It’s not in the NBA’s best interest to hire 18-year olds.
    Hickes, dude, the NBA is a billion dollar business in cahoots with another billion dollar business, the NCAA. We’re not talking about how it’s in their best interest to collude to manage their labor costs ans maximize their profits. Of course they’re going to act in what they see as their best interest. We’re talking about how hypocritical it is for them to rip off college kids while saying it’s “for their own good.” Of course it would be in the best interest of the National Association of College Theater Directors to do they same thing, as in my imaginary scenario outlined above. Why don’t we see the NCAA as just as hypocritcal?

  • It’s not in the NBA’s best interest to hire 18-year olds.
    Hickes, dude, the NBA is a billion dollar business in cahoots with another billion dollar business, the NCAA. We’re not talking about how it’s in their best interest to collude to manage their labor costs ans maximize their profits. Of course they’re going to act in what they see as their best interest. We’re talking about how hypocritical it is for them to rip off college kids while saying it’s “for their own good.” Of course it would be in the best interest of the National Association of College Theater Directors to do they same thing, as in my imaginary scenario outlined above. Why don’t we see the NCAA as just as hypocritcal?

  • hickes01

    John P. – I agree. The NCAA doesn’t have a leg to stand on. However, as unsavory as it may be, the NCAA really isn’t the NBA’s problem. Technically, the NBA doesn’t care where the kid plays until he turns 19. It may be bad business to treat kids poorly, but I’m tired of hearing how the NBA is denying players the right to practice their profession. Now if the NCAA instituted rules disallowing the one-and-done, and paid players, and tied coaches salaries to graduation rates, then we’d have something to talk about. The NCAA is the outfit running the bogus minor league farm system.
    Mr. Weiner – awesome.

  • hickes01

    John P. – I agree. The NCAA doesn’t have a leg to stand on. However, as unsavory as it may be, the NCAA really isn’t the NBA’s problem. Technically, the NBA doesn’t care where the kid plays until he turns 19. It may be bad business to treat kids poorly, but I’m tired of hearing how the NBA is denying players the right to practice their profession. Now if the NCAA instituted rules disallowing the one-and-done, and paid players, and tied coaches salaries to graduation rates, then we’d have something to talk about. The NCAA is the outfit running the bogus minor league farm system.
    Mr. Weiner – awesome.

  • I could live with the NBA and NCAA setting their rules if they would let players in college make outside deals – maybe colleges shouldn’t pay players cash, but I don’t see any good reason a college star shouldn’t be able to sign a shoe deal. I don’t see any reason at all. For that matter, I’m not sure I see a good reason why players shouldn’t be allowed to play in college while they’re on the payroll of an NBA team – why not treat it as a straight up minor league? (There probably are good reasons not to do that, though I’m not sure they’d outweigh the advantages.)
    As for the NBA denying certain individuals who are past the age of majority the right to play in their league – I don’t know how that is legal in the first place. It’s certainly unfair, at least to the dozen or so kids a year it impacts. Though probably to a lot more players than that, in the end.

  • I could live with the NBA and NCAA setting their rules if they would let players in college make outside deals – maybe colleges shouldn’t pay players cash, but I don’t see any good reason a college star shouldn’t be able to sign a shoe deal. I don’t see any reason at all. For that matter, I’m not sure I see a good reason why players shouldn’t be allowed to play in college while they’re on the payroll of an NBA team – why not treat it as a straight up minor league? (There probably are good reasons not to do that, though I’m not sure they’d outweigh the advantages.)
    As for the NBA denying certain individuals who are past the age of majority the right to play in their league – I don’t know how that is legal in the first place. It’s certainly unfair, at least to the dozen or so kids a year it impacts. Though probably to a lot more players than that, in the end.

  • Henry Holland

    Fuck the one and done thing, it’s an abomination on par with eating shellfish or mixing different types of cloth.
    Um, I’m not bitter because Kevin Love (and that prick dad of his) left UCLA, oh noes, not at all.
    Seriously though, the top players will always get by, it’s the “supporting cast”, as Michael Jordan so charmingly put it, that get screwed.
    I can’t remember the guy’s name, but there was a linebacker at UCLA about 5 years ago that was profiled in the Los Angeles Times and the article left me infuriated. Because of NCAA rules, he couldn’t take a job but his stipend left him almost no money after he paid rent for the apartment he shared with 3 other players (in Westwood, rents are astronomical), eat decent meals every day or take his girlfriend to a movie. An athlete playing the most popular sport in America (though football is second to basketball at UCLA) at one of pricier universities living on 99 Cent Store mac & cheese? WTF? “Indentured servitude” is the phrase that sprang to mind.

  • Henry Holland

    Fuck the one and done thing, it’s an abomination on par with eating shellfish or mixing different types of cloth.
    Um, I’m not bitter because Kevin Love (and that prick dad of his) left UCLA, oh noes, not at all.
    Seriously though, the top players will always get by, it’s the “supporting cast”, as Michael Jordan so charmingly put it, that get screwed.
    I can’t remember the guy’s name, but there was a linebacker at UCLA about 5 years ago that was profiled in the Los Angeles Times and the article left me infuriated. Because of NCAA rules, he couldn’t take a job but his stipend left him almost no money after he paid rent for the apartment he shared with 3 other players (in Westwood, rents are astronomical), eat decent meals every day or take his girlfriend to a movie. An athlete playing the most popular sport in America (though football is second to basketball at UCLA) at one of pricier universities living on 99 Cent Store mac & cheese? WTF? “Indentured servitude” is the phrase that sprang to mind.

  • Technically, the NBA doesn’t care where the kid plays until he turns 19.
    Eh, the NBA knows exactly where those kids are playing and what they’re doing — it’s at the very least complicit in the NCAA system.

  • Technically, the NBA doesn’t care where the kid plays until he turns 19.
    Eh, the NBA knows exactly where those kids are playing and what they’re doing — it’s at the very least complicit in the NCAA system.

  • witless chum

    ” I’m sure this scenario plays out all through the NCAA all the time, but to less fanfare, and with less cerebral players than Robert Smith.”
    I think Robert Smith is my favorite ex-jock, mostly for his abundant willingness to bite the hands that fed.

  • witless chum

    ” I’m sure this scenario plays out all through the NCAA all the time, but to less fanfare, and with less cerebral players than Robert Smith.”
    I think Robert Smith is my favorite ex-jock, mostly for his abundant willingness to bite the hands that fed.

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